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Why Schools Are Turning to Mobile Event Apps for Student/Family Functions

Why Schools are Turning to Mobile Event Apps for Student/Family Functions



The use of mobile event apps for conferences and business meetings at colleges and universities is growing in popularity. For educational and association conferences which are hosted by schools during the school year or more frequently during summer months, apps have proven to be valuable assets.



Now the purpose of employing an app is expanding to other functions, such as student orientation weeks and parent/family weekends.



While many schools now employ a general-purpose, or “365” app — which is essentially a convenient, mobile-friendly and “native app” version of a school’s website — event apps are completely different, with a laser-focus on specific programs happening on campus. School event managers and student affairs administrators are thinking more creatively.





The Benefits: Sustainability, Instant Updating, and More

There are many good reasons to employ a mobile app for a student orientation-type event. First, it delivers the content of the program in the medium that today’s students use the most. Why not serve it up in the format that’s best for them? What will they do with more paper?



Second, using a mobile app is a concrete example of how the school is committed to sustainability. You can eliminate all the paper and expense from printed brochures that will find their way to the wastebasket as soon as the event is over.



Third, an app gives you the luxury to revise the schedule information at any time — and to send out important updates and alerts — makes the app instantly viable, unlike a paper guide that might be obsolete once it’s printed.



Finally, compare costs and effort. An app might cost the same or less than paper materials, when you include design expenses, printing, boxing, and shipping.



Our firm discovered this niche when Washington University in St. Louis jumped into the mobile app for their First Year Center’s orientation events. “The (AgendaPop) app provides us with an accessible and affordable way for students and family members to engage with our programs and events on their mobile devices,” said Michael Toney of their Student Affairs department, who’s now Director of Orientation at Emory University.

Organizing by Tracks and Customization



There’s a common theme during student orientations or parent and family weekends. Students and parents alike are asking themselves, “What is there to do?” and “Where do I need to be now?” The app offers the best solution because it helps all users zero in on subject matter, activity, time, and location.

Several features in a student orientation event app make it easy for participants to follow the program. Here are some to consider:



Tracks: Display a customized schedule for specific audiences, such as first-year students, transfer students, and parents. Both students and parents like this. Students want time to explore on their own and make new friends, and parents can focus on sessions that are geared more to them.



Personalization: When a program offers concurrent sessions or activities at the same time, allow users to select their choices to their own schedule. 



Maps: Show each campus building’s location in perspective to the larger campus map, then include navigation through a Google map so students and parents can plan their walking route to the various meeting locations.



Interactive Features: Alerts, Surveys, Polls, and Social Media



Apps really shine when the event hosts and participants can interact with one another.


Announcements: Alerts and push notifications can be extremely valuable, whether they’re used for campus emergencies, changes to meeting locations, reminders of the most important sessions, or subtle lifestyle hints (e.g. vegetarian or gluten-free options are available in the dining hall).



Surveys and Instant Polling: Use the app to capture student and parent evaluations of their experience, then review the data when planning the following year’s program. Instant Polling is a fun way to break the ice during a session, where you can project the results simultaneously on a large screen.



Social Media: Students share their life experiences on social media, so link to the school’s Twitter feed (including hashtags!), Facebook page, Instagram, Snapchat, and more. Parents will use social media too to show their communities how much their child is enjoying his or her new surroundings.

Resources: Include a useful listing of college departments, public safety contacts, library, residential, policies, and other helpful items, with links to emails, office phone numbers and URLs.


Note-Taking: Include the ability to take (and save) a student’s or parent’s notes as they’re attending sessions and activities.



Sponsorship: If it’s appropriate, offer rotating banner positions to local businesses near campus, such as restaurants. This can help offset the cost of the app.



Find a Mobile App Provider that Reflects Your School



As a mobile app developer, we have many features within our ongoing conference app platform that have been easily customized for a school-hosted event. Event app pricing can vary widely throughout the industry, and not every event app developer is focused on serving the college market. So it’s important to find the best app developer who can meet your needs, budget, and time frame, and one that reflects the quality and integrity of your institution.

- By Phil Rappoport, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, AgendaPop Mobile Event App 
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